12 CAA Teams in 12 Days: UMass

Welcome back to 12 CAA Teams in 12 13 days! Sometimes my other job (the one that actually pays me) will get in the way of this and force me to play catchup but it can’t be helped. With that said, it’s time to stay in the Northeast and check out a place where the letter R does not exist. That’s right it’s Massachusetts!

Name: University of Massachusetts Amherst

Nickname: Minutemen

Founded: 1863

Student Body Population: Approx. 25,000 with Graduates

Located: In the town of Amherst in western Massachusetts about two hours from Boston

Colors: Maroon and White

Mascot: Sam the Minuteman

Fun Academic Fact: UMass Amherst is part of the Five Colleges Consortium which allows its students to attend classes, borrow books, work with professors, etc., at four other Pioneer Valley institutions: Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges.

– UMass and UMaine were both founded under the Land Grant Act signed by President Lincoln in 1862.

MASSACHUSETTS FOOTBALL

Head Coach: Don Brown, 5th Year (38-12)

STADIUM: Warren P. McGuirk Alumni Stadium

Opened in 1965, McGuirk Stadium has a capacity of 17,000 and has seen the Minutemen win 17 conference titles most recently in 2007. The stadium was named after Warren McGuirk who served as UMass’ Director of Athletics from 1948 to 1971. For how long the stadium will be around is uncertain due to an increasing call for the Minutemen to play in the I-A Bowl Subdivision which would require increasing the seating or building a new facility.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONS

UMass football was going nowhere fast in the 90s until then head coach Mark Whipple did an overhaul and turned a ragtag team into national champions in what seemed like overnight. In fact it was. The previous year, UMass had gone 2-9, but in 1998, the Minutemen went 13-2 culminating with a 55-43 thrashing of previously top ranked and unbeaten Georgia Southern. Eventual NFL running back Marcel Shipp had 244 yards rushing and three touchdowns to lead the way and UMass football has been on the map ever since.

UMass RB Marcel Shipp slips away as UMass wins the title against GA Southern on 12/19/1998.

NOTABLE PLAYERS

Steve Baylark, Greg Landry, Milt Morin, Marcel Shipp

FCS Round 2 – Showdowns Galore!

Before I get to the preview, I came across this video that App State put together for the playoffs. Very well done using Jeremy Piven from his NBA Playoffs bits. If anything, it’s good for getting the FCS exposure on the internet and to show the world how you’re supposed to decide a national champion.  Thanks to ASU Video for this.

I’m getting over JMU’s heartbreaking loss in Boone last weekend and I’ve decided I’m good enough to write this preview so here it goes.

VS.     

It’s a battle tested #1 against a team that was dozing off by the fourth quarter of its game as Northern Iowa hosts Delaware. The Hens are coming off a 44-7 shellacking of in-state rival(can we call them that now?) Delaware State. UD looked superior in all facets of the game and had the game won by the half. The same cannot be said for the Panthers. Facing elimination with 1:10 left, their superstar QB Eric Sanders led them down the field 71 yards and threw a 15 yard strike to knock off the upstart New Hampshire Wildcats.  The question now becomes what team benefitted more? The one that got a challenge or the one that looked like it was playing a Pee Wee team? Knowing the Hens, they’re coming into this game believing they’ll win it and why doubt them? They have the best RB in the nation in Omar Cuff and I swear Joe Flacco looked like Brett Favre out there the way he was zinging passes to his receivers.  But the Panthers are once again at home and Sanders is no slouch. They too are a high powered offense and can score points with the best of them.  These two teams are so similar that its hard to find an X factor. I think however this is the upset special of the week. UNH almost beat N. Iowa and they relied on Ricky Santos. Delaware has a terrific QB but they have an even better RB and that multi-dimensional offense is what puts the Hens over the top.  You heard it here first (I think).  2 pm on ESPN Gameplan and ESPN360.com Delaware 42, Northern Iowa 39

VS.    

Similar matchup to the one above in that one team (S. Illinois) walked all over its last opponent and the other (UMass) had a tougher game than they thought. I like this matchup a lot because it pits two of the best QBs in the nation against each other in the Salukis’ Nick Hill and the Minutemen’s Liam Coen. Coen had his best statistical day of the year with 419 yards passing and 4 TDs in UMass’ closer than it looks victory over Fordham 49-35. Hill wasn’t bad either: 234 yards and 2 TDs in the win over E. Illinois.  The key to the game is Coen beating that tough Saluki defense.  If he can manage it, I think the Minutemen have a chance. But to me, Hill and Co. are playing too well to be beaten at home and their stifling defense is what will make the difference on this day.  3:15 pm on ESPN Gameplan and ESPN360.com Southern Illinois 27, UMass 20

  VS.     

Yet another showdown that pits one team lucky to still be here (ASU) and one that looked like it should’ve been seeded (EWU). We’ll see two different offenses clash as the more traditional Eagles with their pocket passing go against the spread option of Appalachian.  The key here is the Mountaineers keeping the EWU offense grounded which will probably mean off the field. Matt Nicholls and Dale Morris absolutely carved up McNeese State’s defense (434 yards passing and 130 yards rushing respectively) as the Eagles had 600+ offensive yards were on the field on offense for almost 2/3 of the time. ASU’s defense looked porous last week against JMU giving up 436 yards. If that doesn’t change, it will be a long day for the Boone faithful. Armanti Edwards has to take charge by scoring early and often especially if Kevin Richardson isn’t healthy.  Though it will be close and App will be helped by the home crowd, I see Eastern Washington continuing their impressive run as they move on the semifinals.  Noon on ESPN Gameplan and ESPN360.com  Eastern Washington 34, Appalachian State 25

 VS.      

I figured I owed it to the Terriers to give them a scarier looking photo especially after beating the Grizzlies in Montana. That’s one reward and the other is getting a much deserved home game against a very strong Richmond team that absolutely dismantled Eastern Kentucky last week. If it weren’t for Delaware’s Omar Cuff, Tim Hightower would be the best RB in the country and they’ll need him to shine once more if they’re going to beat this Wofford team. While this Richmond team is one of the best in the nation, I just can’t go against a team that has beaten both Appalachian State and Montana in the same season. Let’s give some respect to these Terriers. 7 pm on ESPN Gameplan and ESPN360.com  Wofford 23, Richmond 21

FCS First Round Wrap Up

What a wild weekend of FCS playoff football! There were two undefeated teams that went down, two games that came down to the wire and some unexpected blowouts. Hopefully, the rest of the way will be just as exciting.

My two cents on the JMU game:

Before I go into all the games, let me just say that I have been a huge supporter of Mickey Matthews and all that he has done for my alma mater. That being said, the last five minutes of the game on Saturday were inexcusable. I don’t like saying “We should be there and not them” but that is definitely the case this time. The game was essentially over. Twice. Mickey should have known better than to go for it on 4th and 1 with the lead and 5 minutes to go in a hostile stadium. He also should’ve known to either down the ball or just kick a field goal at the end instead of running the ball constantly and risk fumbling it away. I won’t blame the JMU athletic department if they fire Matthews after this because it was unfathomable. I appreciate everything that he has done for us including the national championship in 2004 but I don’t see him surviving the costly mistakes from Saturday.

Delaware 44, Delaware State 7 – This was a bit anti-climatic. The Hens jumped all over the Hornets’ mistakes from the beginnning and the rout was on. Omar Cuff had a school record 288 rushing yards, most of which he picked up in the first half and scored four times to put his singles season TD total at 37. It was the first meeting between the two schools who are just 45 miles apart but unfortunately it did not live up to the hype. The win means the Hens (9-3) will now face top seeded Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls on December 1 at 2 pm.

Appalachian State 28, James Madison 27 – Armanti Edwards’ TD run with 1:10 left put the Mountaineers ahead and Pierre Banks recovered a Jamal Sullivan fumble at the ASU 5 to seal the game. Despite being outgained in almost every offensive category, ASU took advantage of three costly JMU turnovers and putting points on the board after each one. Payton award finalist RB Kevin Richardson was injured in the third quarter and his status will be updated later in the week. The Mountaineers will be at home again this weekend to face the Eagles of Eastern Washington on December 1 at Noon.

UMass 49, Fordham 35  – This game was very dicey for the Minutemen as they had to withstand a very game Rams team that for awhile looked like the better squad out there. Liam Coen picked a great day to have his best single game performance with 419 yards passing and four TD passes. Fordham however played tough, tying the game twice including 35-35 a few minutes into the 4th quarter. But UMass’ running game became the difference as Matt Lawrence scampered for two scores to put the game away. UMass next travels to Carbondale for a date with Southern Illinois at 3:30 on December 1.

Wofford 23, Montana 22 – Anyone but a few diehard Terrier fans see this one coming? Michael Hobbs ran in for at TD from six yards out with 32 seconds remaining to beat the previously undefeated Grizzlies. The story was Wofford’s defense as they sacked Cole Bergquist five times and constantly kept Montana’s offense off balance. The Terriers also survived three turnovers and the 13 degree weather at kickoff. Their reward is a home game against Richmond on December 1 at 7 pm.

Southern Illinois 30, Eastern Illinois 11 –  The story going into the game was the efficient play of Saluki QB Nick Hill. He didn’t disappoint. Hill had 264 total yards and a TD to lead Southern Illinois to business-like win over what seemed to be an overmatched Panther team. Eastern Illinois doomed itself with two turnovers and neither Cody Reeder or Ademola Adeniji could get it going until it was too late. The Salukis now get a home game against the Minutemen of UMass at 3:30 as part of ESPN’s package.

Richmond 31, Eastern Kentucky 14 – Another business-like win for a Spider team that looks like it could be a real contender for the title this year. Tim Hightower set a school record for postseason yards in a game with 180 and also scored a TD as Richmond dismantled a Colonel team that many were expecting more out of.  But EKU came out flat and promptly turned the ball over four times while not forcing any of their own to ensure they would not be a factor in this game.  The Spiders next travel to Wofford for a 7 pm game on December 1.

Northern Iowa 38, New Hampshire 35 – The Wildcats join JMU in the group of teams that probably should be practicing for their quarterfinal game this week but won’t. UNH led 35-31 with seven seconds remaining but Panther QB Eric Sanders hit Montari Leonard for the game winning 15 yard TD. It capped a drive that went 71 yards in just 1:11 and saved the day for UNI. The game did prove however that UNH belonged in the playoffs despite a 4-4 conference record. It was all that anyone could have hoped for in a game that matched two of the nation’s best QBs in Sanders and UNH QB Ricky Santos. The Panthers next host the Fightin Blue Hens of Delaware at 2 pm on December 1.

Eastern Washington 44, McNeese State 15 – So much for the Bayou effect on visiting teams. Matt Nicholls had 459 total yards and Dale Morris ran for 130 as the Eagles pounded the previously undefeated Cowboys into submission. Eastern Washington outgained McNeese 434 yards to 185 and also recovered three turnovers in the rout. Things however won’t get any easier as they next have to go cross country to face the Mountaineers of Appalachian State at noon on December 1.